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Sigmund Freud on books that changed him

photo: Wikimedia
“The father” of psychoanalysis shares the list of his most favorite books
Buy on amazon “Paradise Lost” by John Milton
In one of his letters Sigmund Freud has named this book one of his favorites

The ancient tale of the loss of perfection, both in nature and in human form, is spelled out in slow detail by a man who suffered from blindness by age 43. His knowledge of the three most important Biblical languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin) provided the foundation for a five-year stint of solitary study that also paved the way for this work and for his blindness. This epic poetry takes four books to describe Satan’s rise and fall from grace, and eight books for Adam and Eve who succumbed to temptation. This work inspired Blake, Shelley, Tolkien, and many others.
Buy on amazon “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling
In one of his letters Sigmund Freud has included this book in his list of “ten good books”

Those who grow up with the Disney version may be surprised by the real story of Mowgli, which features rather more of Jungle and less of Man. The ‘naked frog’, as he is affectionately called by his adopted brother wolves and other friends, comes into conflict that breeds understanding with the flexible rules and the inflexible laws of the jungle. Mowgli escapes certain death a few times by a combination of skill, necessity, cunning, and politeness – not to mention Baloo and Bagheera’s help with the cunning ally and snake Ka and the dangerous law-breaking tiger Shere Khan.
Buy on amazon “Humorous Stories and Sketches” by Mark Twain
In one of his letters Sigmund Freud has included this book in his list of “ten good books”

From jumping frogs to politicians to journalists, Twain describes all that is odd and out-of-place in American life. He even takes a potshot at the celebrated author James Fenimore Cooper, who is accused of making literary blunders of the first order. If you’re not a fan of satire or farce, it’s possible that this work will not be your favorite bit of Twain, although the Stolen White Elephant truly offers some witty barbs at humans’ ridiculous protocols and the justice system’s many cracks.
Buy on amazon “Poems and Ballads” by Heinrich Heine
In one of his letters Sigmund Freud has named Heine’s poems among his favorite books

A Dusseldorf native caught in the throes of the French and Napoleonic uprisings, Heine studied for legal and government positions that he didn’t take – but the publication of a response to barbs about his Jewish heritage culminated in his swift remove to Paris. After working as a journalist and travel writer, Heine learned to thoroughly despise censorship and Romanticism, so his poems carry a continual flavor of disaffection and sarcasm, and death. ‘Solomon’ and ‘Morphine’ are particularly affecting, while the Homeward Bound saga is both moving and darkly comedic.
Buy on amazon “The Brothers Karamazov” by Dostoevsky
- Sigmund Freud in his paper titled "Dostoevsky and Parricide"
This is of the best allegorical novels to explain the fractured nature of 19th century Russia. Each character is representative of one of the ruling classes. There is the father Fyodor, the landowner who is negligent about his land, but greedy in using its produce for himself. There's Dmitri, who has been passed around from house to house, and has grown up an entitled but debt-ridden soul. There's the skeptic Ivan, who wishes to live more among cold concepts than people. Third is gentle Alyosha, the mystic and religious peacemaker, and the illegitimate Smerdyakov. Throughout are themes of love, law, and duty, which makes this one of the best Dostoyevsky books to read besides Crime and Punishment.
Buy on amazon “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens
“David Copperfield” was Sigmund Freud’s favorite novel by Dickens. Freud also gave a copy of this book to his fiancee Martha Bernays on the day of their engagement.

The tragedy about Copperfield's life is largely tied to the author's own. There's hardly a personal experience of love, loss, overwork, boarding school deprivation, financial peaks and valleys, and unsatisfying marriage that Dickens himself didn't live through. Both Mr. Micawber's sunny optimism mixed with deep despair, and Uriah Heep's obsequious cunning, have been aped in many films and plays since the debut of a story about a boy who grew through loneliness to find success in the world – and yet longs for some deeper purpose rooted in love.
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